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Max Ernst (1891-1976)
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Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Les visiteurs du dimanche

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Les visiteurs du dimanche
signed 'max Ernst' (lower right); titled and dated 'LES VISITEURS DU DIMANCHE 1924' (on the reverse)
oil and collage on card
4 5/8 x 6 in. (11.7 x 15.2 cm.)
Painted in 1924
George Papazoff, Vence.
Galerie Tarica, Paris (no. YOK 2), by whom acquired from the above.
Hubertus Wald, Hamburg, by whom acquired from the above in October 1977.
W. Spies, Max Ernst, Collagen: Inventar und Widerspruch, Cologne,
1974, no. 34, pp. 27, 119 & 123 (illustrated).
W. Spies, S. & G. Metken, Max Ernst, Werke 1906 - 1925, Cologne, 1975, no. 661, p. 344 (illustrated).
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Sammlung Wald, September - November 2003.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Please note that the catalogue illustration is larger than the original work.

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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

Les visiteurs du dimanche (The Sunday Visitors) is a rare and important collage-painting that Ernst made in 1924 which served as the basis for a larger oil painting of the same subject entitled Les invites du dimanche (The Sunday Guests) also painted in 1924.

Making use of a series of printed images of women's hairstyles as the prompt for the creation of a sequence of bizarre and haunting personages - in much the same way as his earlier 1920 work c'est le chapeau qui fait l'homme' had made a similar use of an illustrated sequence of gentleman's hats - this work depicts a mysterious group of three faceless figures. As in c'est le chapeau qui fait l'homme' it appears that the cut-out hairstyles have served as the original prompt from which the ensuing figures are created. Ernst may have been inspired in this idea here by the precedent of Carlo Carra's la Camera incantata - a work that appears to have prompted several of Ernst's motifs and which prominently displayed an automaton-like dummy seemingly brought to life by its sporting of a detailed and elaborate hair-piece.

As André Breton wrote of Ernst's work after seeing his first exhibition in Paris in 1921, what was most notable about Ernst's work of these early years was its 'wonderful ability to reach, without leaving the field of our experience, two widely separated worlds, bring them together, and strike a spark from their conjunction' (André Breton quoted in W. Spies, Max Ernst: Collages, London, 1988, p. 228). It was a poetic ability, derived from de Chirico's example and also from his own hatred of all formalised logic, systematised order and authoritarian rationality - those pillars of sanity that had led to the madness of the First World War in which he had fought - which Ernst used partially as a nonsensical attack on such fixed notions of order.

In a letter of this period he wrote that it was his intention to always 'create an electric or erotic tension between elements that we have become accustomed to think of a mutually alien and unrelated. Discharges, high- tension currents would result. And the more unexpected the elements brought together, the more surprising to me was the spark of poetry that jumped the gap' (Max Ernst quoted in W. Spies, Max Ernst: Collages, London, 1988, p. 228).

Inspired also by the kind of eroto-mechanics of Duchamp and Picabia's machine pictures as well as deeply interested in alchemy and in alchemical illustration with its potent mixture of scientific apparatus and sexual metaphor, there is often a sexual or erotic undercurrent to much of Ernst's work of this period. With their faceless automaton-like forms seemingly suggestive of strangely regal or archetypal figures as well as of game pieces or the 'malic moulds' of Duchamp's bachelors seeking the bride, the three figures in this painting also seem to convey a hidden sense of play and meaning. The fact that Ernst at this time was living in a ménage a trois with Paul Eluard and his wife Gala may well, therefore, have played a part.

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